It's time to get outside.
We've been waiting nearly four long months for this (after a brutally hot summer), but it seems like fall is finally here. It might not be the perfectly crisp 50-degree weather that allows for cozy sweaters, but it's finally cool enough to head outside to get some exercise without excessively sweating.
If you're anything like me and want to take advantage of autumn, going outside and taking a hike (literally) can be a great way to get in some steps and see the ever-changing foliage at the same time. It's seriously a win-win. If you need a few other reasons to lace up your hiking boots and head outside in the upcoming months, here are five reasons to hit the trails.
Benefits Physical Health in Various Ways
A hike is basically a longer, glorified walk that occurs in nature. Remember, any movement will benefit your physical health, even if it's just a quick 30-minute jaunt on your local trail. According to Alyson Chun, assistant director of adventure sports at Stanford University and instructor for REI, hiking can help you strengthen your core, strengthen your lower body, burn calories, and improve your balance and stability.
It's also a low-impact version of cardio, which can greatly benefit your cardiovascular health. According to a study published in the Wilderness & Environmental Medicine journal, hiking at even moderate and low altitudes can improve cardiovascular health in patients with metabolic syndrome. Basically, it doesn't have to be a high-intensity uphill climb for you to get the health benefits. Just get outside and get going.
Provides Mental Health and Stress Relief
A 2022 study that looked at the relationship between emotional well-being and time spent outside found that "doing any type of outdoor activity was significantly and positively associated with a higher WBS (well-being score) and this relationship was modified by age." This means that hiking, an excellent outdoor activity, can improve your overall well-being.
Another 2021 study even found that nature exposure helped to improve cognitive function and brain activity. The next time you feel stuck creatively or need to come up with an impressive pitch for a meeting? Head outside.
If you're an artist, you might benefit even more by taking a hike in the fall. The calm weather conditions will allow you to stay outside longer and pay attention to all of your surroundings. Plus, who couldn't feel inspired by the lush, decadent fall foliage and red, yellow, and green leaves that the outdoors offers in the fall seasons?
Improves Connection With Nature
From the sight of breathtaking landscapes to the sound of birds chirping and the scent of fresh, fall air, connecting with nature can help give you a much-needed reset from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. There's nothing like mixing up your surroundings to inspire change. If you feel stuck or just need to come up with a new way of thinking, try getting outside and truly immersing yourself in nature.
One 2021 study found that viewing "light green and green-yellow [foliage] had the greatest ability to stimulate calmness." If getting centered and regaining calmness is as simple as heading outside in the fall, why not try it?
Promotes Socialization and Community Building
In a post-pandemic world, many people are still struggling with a lack of community and social interaction, which can not only damage your mental health but your physical health as well. Studies show that loneliness is one of the biggest threats to cardiovascular health.
Inviting a friend or neighbor to go for a hike in the fall is a great way to catch up and experience a little social time. Because you're outside, there's plenty to discuss and admire without feeling bogged down to a chair at a cafe, trying to force conversation. If you're naturally more shy or get intimidated in one-on-one conversations, a hike could be a great social solution for you. Bonus points if you or your friend has a dog they can bring to make it even more fun.
Encourages Adventure and Exploration
A hike during the fall is a great way to get out of your comfort zone and experience new physical gains. Find your local hiking area in your community and start out walking the easiest trails. Work your way up to the more difficult ones (just make sure your healthcare provider approves if you have physical health concerns).
It can also be a great way to push yourself out of your comfort zone socially. Try inviting a different person out with you to hike each time you go. Hiking offers a natural way to explore your surroundings. If you've been feeling cooped up and bogged down lately, head outside, follow the signs and directions marked out by the trail, and put your phone away for a few hours. There's nothing like exploring in real time for you to get your mind off of the stressful things in life and focus on the present.
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Read the original article on Shape.